18: Leave or Remain – MPs view on entrepreneurship
Though many of us are getting fatigued by it, we should remember that Thursday’s vote on our membership of the European Union will be a seminal moment in British politics. We are at a fork in the road, and, in both principle and practice, the electorate is being asked to vote for two very different visions of the future. It gets to the very heart of how we see ourselves as a nation, as a continent and as individuals.
Our Parliamentary Snapshot 2016, which is a based on a YouGov survey of MPs, reveals a lot about what MPs think about the EU: 70 per cent of Conservative MPs think entrepreneurs would be better off if we left the EU, and 88 per cent think they would be better off if we were exempt from EU business regulation. In contrast, 97 per cent of Labour MPs think withdrawing from the EU would have a negative impact on entrepreneurs, and 75 per cent think being exempt from EU business regulation would have a negative impact.
Perhaps this isn’t too surprising, but what is unexpected is the liberal approach MPs have towards entrepreneurs and their employees coming to the UK. A lot of business owners are concerned by the anti-immigration rhetoric of the Leave campaign, but this doesn’t seem to be representative of the views of MPs. Our survey found that the second most popular policy direction across the House of Commons is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to move to the UK – 82 per cent positive and just 3 per cent negative. This breaks down as 86 per cent of Conservative MPs positive and 84 per cent of Labour MPs positive.
Also, 63 per cent of MPs think making it easier to hire skilled workers from abroad would have a positive impact on entrepreneurial activity in the UK. This is up from 49 per cent in 2014, with Conservative MPs’ support rising from 40 per cent to 58 per cent and Labour MPs’ support rising from 53 per cent to 66 per cent.
These findings on the EU are just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to policy direction, we found again that spending more on improving the skill of the domestic workforce is the most popular support across the House of Commons with 87 per cent support.
We also asked MPs which initiatives are successful at supporting entrepreneurs. The most popular were business rate relief (87 per cent thought this was effective), Enterprise Zones (82 per cent), the Regional Growth Fund (75 per cent), Start Up Loans (72 per cent) and the Employment Allowance (66 per cent).
In contrast, some policies are remarkably unknown. More MPs have never heard of key polices such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme, Entrepreneurs’ Relief and the British Business Bank than think they are effective. Whichever way the vote goes on Thursday, we are going to focus on informing and educating those in power – whether that’s Westminster or Brussels – about what these schemes and why they matter.
22 June 2016